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Estate plan essentials for Florida caregivers

An associate professor at Florida A&M University's College of Law recently offered up some sage advice that should be taken into consideration by every West Palm Beach resident who might someday serve as a family member's caregiver. According to the professor, every prospective caregiver should make a point of connecting loved ones with an experience estate planning professional to prepare five critical documents.

As many people know, a will serves the important purpose of defining how estate assets will be distributed after a person's death. A will should identify who will serve as executor of the estate in order to avoid confusion and family disputes. In addition, a will can be used to name guardians for minor children.

A valid power of attorney can help avoid the need for time consuming guardianship proceedings in the event that a person suffers from dementia or incapacity. The power of attorney can authorize a caregiver to manage a loved one's financial affairs.

A healthcare proxy, much like a power of attorney, can authorize a caregiver to make important medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated family member. The document should include a HIPAA authorization that will allow medical providers to release protected health information to the caregiver. Paired with the healthcare proxy, a living will should provide specific medical directives describing individual preferences for end-of-life care and life support decisions.

Finally, a revocable trust can provide a useful tool for avoiding probate and allowing estate assets to be managed prior to death. In addition to affording beneficiaries some protection against creditors, a trust can set forth specific provisions for when and under what circumstances beneficiaries receive estate assets.

Establishing the necessary elements of an effective estate plan need not be overly time consuming or expensive. An experienced estate planning attorney can help Floridians prepare these essential documents that can ease a caregiver's burden during a difficult time.

Source: South Florida Times, "ESTATE PLANNING FOR CAREGIVERS: 5 ESSENTIAL LEGAL DOCUMENTS," Phyllis Smith, Nov. 29, 2012

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